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Late Holocene thermokarst variability inferred from diatoms in a lake sediment record from the Lena Delta, Siberian Arctic

Abstract

Thermokarst lakes in the Siberian Arctic contain sediment archives that can be used for paleoenvironmental inference. Until now, however, there has been no study from the inner Lena River Delta with a focus on diatoms. The objective of this study was to investigate how the diatom community in a thermokarst lake responded to past limnogeological changes and what specific factors drove variations in the diatom assemblage. We analysed fossil diatom species, organic content, grain-size distribution and elemental composition in a sediment core retrieved in 2009 from a shallow thermokarst lake in the Arga Complex, western Lena River Delta. The core contains a 3,000-year record of sediment accumulation. Shifts in the predominantly benthic and epiphytic diatom species composition parallel changes in sediment characteristics. Paleoenvironmental and limnogeological development, inferred from multiple biological and sedimentological variables, are discussed in the context of four diatom zones, and indicate a strong relation between changes in the diatom assemblage and thermokarst processes. We conclude that limnogeological and thermokarst processes such as lake drainage, rather than direct climate forcing, were the main factors that altered the aquatic ecosystem by influencing, for example, habitat availability, hydrochemistry, and water level.

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Acknowledgments

This study was financed by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the POLMAR Graduate School. Our laboratory analyses were conducted at the AWI, at the GeoForschungsZentrum in Potsdam and at the University of Potsdam, in cooperation with Roland Oberhänsli. We thank John Smol for providing helpful literature. We are also grateful to all participants in the helicopter expedition for their dedication. Special thanks go to two anonymous reviewers, whose comments and suggestions greatly improved the quality of the paper.

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Correspondence to B. K. Biskaborn.

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Biskaborn, B.K., Herzschuh, U., Bolshiyanov, D. et al. Late Holocene thermokarst variability inferred from diatoms in a lake sediment record from the Lena Delta, Siberian Arctic. J Paleolimnol 49, 155–170 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-012-9650-1

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Keywords

  • Diatoms
  • Aquatic ecosystem
  • Arga Complex
  • Paleolimnology
  • Paleoecology
  • Lake sediment core